Endangered Indian star tortoises seized from Kolkata hotel

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Kolkata, March 24 (IANS) A total of 241 rare and endangered tortoises have been seized by revenue intelligence officials from a hotel here, an official release said here on Saturday.

Acting on specific intelligence inputs that a gang operating in Chennai and Kolkata would attempt to smuggle some Indian star tortoises to Bangkok, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence sleuths mounted surveillance on a hotel on Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road on Thursday night.

“The tip off suggested that the tortoises were kept in one room of the hotel under the occupation of Dustagir Mohamed Yaseen of Chennai. Even as DRI sleuths kept vigil, Syed Hasin Ali came to the hotel carrying one backpack and one suitcase and entered the room occupied by Dustagir Mohamed Yaseen.

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“DRI officers then entered the room and found the tortoises covered in cloth bags and kept in the two bags. A total of 241 number of Indian Star Tortoises were found,” the release said.

Officers from the Forest Department and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau were called and they confirmed the tortoises to be Indian star tortoises with the zoological name Geochelone elegans.

The DRI officers then handed over the seized to Wildlife Rescue Centre, of the state Forest Department.

“Investigation has revealed that Dustagir Mohammed Yaseen was the main person behind this attempted smuggling and is a habitual offender.

“He admitted that the tortoises were to be smuggled to Bangkok. Earlier too he was involved in organising smuggling of Indian Star Tortoises which was intercepted by the police authorities,” the release said.

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Indian star tortoises are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act and prohibited for export under the Indian Foreign Trade Policy read along with the provisions of Customs Act.

“These are rare and endangered species of land tortoise and are often poached from the wild and sold internationally to be used as pets and also as ingredients of Chinese medicine,” it said.

–IANS

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